Archive for the ‘Bah Humbug’ Category

Christmas trees could be banned in Fort Collins displays

A task force has recommended that the city’s outdoor Christmas displays include secular symbols and greenery but avoid things associated with a specific religious or cultural holiday.

Task force members generally agreed that Christmas trees wouldn’t be among their recommended displays for city property, although their proposal does not mention them by name, said Seth Anthony, a spokesman for the group.

“I expect criticism from people who feel like we are taking Christmas away. And I expect we will get criticism from people who think educational display endorses religions,” Anthony said.

“(But) to the extent we can, recognizing that offending no one will be impossible, we want to be inclusive.” The complete recommendations have not been made public. The City Council is expected to vote on them Nov. 20. They would take effect in 2008.

The task force, made up of people from religious groups, businesses and community organizations, has been reviewing the city’s existing holiday display policy for two months.

The current policy says outdoor displays on city property may have white and colored lights and wreaths, garlands or other foliage. The policy, adopted in 2006 after a rabbi asked to include a menorah in a display on city property, was based primarily on what the city had customarily done at Christmas.

The City Council set up the task force this year and asked it to review the policy and recommend possible changes.

“As far as I’m concerned, the group ended up in a very fair place in which primarily secular symbols will be used on city property,” task force member Saul Hopper said.

Anthony said the city-owned Fort Collins Museum could continue to include lighted trees in its outdoor display under the recommendations. He said the task force suggested the museum’s display include religious and cultural symbols associated with a variety of winter holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

The Downtown Development Authority’s annual Christmas tree lighting would not be covered by the recommendation because its display is on private property.

New rules to push up price of Christmas trees

A ruling by the European Union could make the price of a top variety of Christmas tree decidedly unfestive.

Imports of the popular Nordmann Fir, which is grown in Denmark, are to fall after the European Union scrapped subsidies, putting many growers of the tree out of business and leading to a shortage.

That’s putting up prices and forcing retailers to fall back on the unpopular Norway spruce variety – which has been known to drop its needles so fast it is often bald by Boxing Day.

Last year 1.2 million Nordmann firs were imported to Britain – but this year just 300,000 of the trees will be sent over.

About 8.5 million trees are sold every Christmas and half of those are Nordmann firs.

British forestries grow Nordmann Firs but not enough to feed the demand.

The British Christmas Tree Growers Association is now advising its members to increase their prices by up to 20 per cent.

And the extra cost is set to be passed on to customers at garden centres and markets this Christmas.

Roger Hay, secretary of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, said: “About 15 per cent of all trees sold in Britain come from Denmark. This year that figure will be down to just two per cent.

“Previously, Denmark supplied 12 million trees a year to European countries but this year that number will drop by four million. The number supplied to the UK will be about 300,000.

“It is all down to a change in the Common Agricultural Policy which stopped the Danish government subsidising the Danish growers.

“As a result Danish farmers haven’t been able to afford to grow them and have ploughed up their land.

“Denmark grows the Nordmann Fir which is the most popular tree in the UK. These trees tend not to drop their needles and they have softer needles.

“About 8.5 million Christmas trees are sold in the UK every year and about four million are Nordmann Firs.

“We have got plenty of trees in this country but what we don’t have are plenty of Nordmann Firs.

“Some people are going to have difficulty getting hold of them this year and as a result the price will go up.”

Richard Deffee, a forester at the Cranborne Estate in Dorset, said he has been besieged by panic-buying dealers already.

He said: “Over the last month we have had businesses calling up wanting a couple of thousand Christmas trees they would usually get from Denmark.

“They are phoning as many forestries as they can to get hold of them.

“The association is recommending to us that we put our prices up by 20 per cent.

“Our wholesale price is normally £15 for a 6ft tree and retail price is £30.”

The Cranborne Estate sells about 4,500 trees a year. About half of them are Nordmann Firs and the others are the traditional Norway Spruce and Blue Spruce species.

Mr Deffee said 2,700 are already earmarked for six local garden centres at wholesale price while 1,800 will be sold direct to customers on a first come first serve basis.

He said: “Normally we are stocked up until Christmas Eve but we expect to sell out sooner this Christmas.

“I expect customers who can’t get hold of them at their usual place will turn up here.”

Despite the shortage, British growers say they will be in for a bumper few years for sales.

They have already begun growing hundreds of thousands of extra Nordmann Firs which will be ready for digging out of the ground next year.

Mr Hay said: “We have always been at the mercy of Denmark and have struggled to compete against the imported trees that were cheaper.

“We can grow Nordmann Firs here very well. We have got large areas of them that have been planted in the last few years.

“It is too soon for them this year but we will certainly have more of them next year.”

The association is advising customers to go to growers within the next couple of weeks, reserve a tree and collect it after the first week in December.

Mr Hay said: “Don’t buy a tree too early because you will find by the middle of the festive season it will start to look a bit weary.”

Jade’s ‘ludicrous’ £3,000 Christmas lights demand

DISGRACED Celebrity Big Brother housemate Jade Goody has been slammed after it emerged that she demanded £3,000 to switch on Ongar’s Christmas lights.

Organisers refused to pay such a “ludicrous” sum and instead asked Father Christmas to do the honours.

Jade, who lives at The Gables, off Fyfield Road, Ongar, made millions of pounds following her initial appearance in the third series of Big Brother but was unwilling to do something “for the good of the community”, the town’s business leader said this week.

Ian Goodman, chairman of the Ongar Town Forum which organises the lights, said such a demand was “ludicrous for a small town like Ongar”.

He said: “My understanding is that we decided we would look round and find someone to do the lights and her name was mentioned.

“It wasn’t a very popular choice because we felt it didn’t really reflect Ongar. Her name was put about and was just one of those in the mix because she’s local. Then I was at a meeting and someone said she wanted £3,000.
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“Whether she was actually asked I’d be surprised. In all fairness to her it wasn’t her who said it, it was her agent.”

Mr Goodman added: “Ongar Town Forum struggles to find enough money to put the lights up.”

Instead organisers asked Father Christmas to turn on the lights as hundreds of people filled the High Street to mark the start of the festive season.

In previous years West Ham United and Scotland footballer Christian Dailly and boxing star Frank Bruno have switched on the lights free of charge.

“They’ve all been more than happy to do it just for the good of the community,” Mr Goodman said.

Mr Goodman, licensee of the Cock Tavern pub in Ongar High Street, said: “It doesn’t matter who you are but if you live in a community you’re part of the community.

“If you live in an area you either decide to put something back into it she (Jade) obviously decided that she wouldn’t.”

Jade, who went into the Celebrity Big Brother house with boyfriend Jack Tweed, who lives in Buckhurst Hill, and her mother, Jackiey Budden, went into hiding – staying at a hotel – after she was evicted in a public vote after she made racial’ comments towards fellow housemate and eventual winner, the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.

Jade’s management company, London-based John Noel Management, has failed to respond to our telephone and email requests for an interview or response.

Village orders pregnant woman to take down Christmas lights

A Metro East woman who’s nearly nine months pregnant and whose husband is serving in Iraq says she’s at a loss to explain why she was ordered to take down her house’s Christmas lights or be fined 75 dollars.
Melissa Neitzel was among 32 Bethalto residents who received citations last week as part of the ten-thousand-resident village’s crackdown on so-called “junked-up yards” that violate zoning ordinances.

If residents don’t heed the warnings, the village would clean out the yards and charge the resident.

Bethalto’s mayor says there are local service groups to help people such as Neitzel, who also has a nine-month-old daughter.

The police chief says he doesn’t anticipate fining anyone for Christmas light violations, and that he’s giving residents another month to take down the lights.

Fountain group takes on Christmas light display

The city’s Musical Fountain Committee has decided to take on a Spring Lake Township man’s Christmas light show that attracted tens of thousands of people to his home late last year.

Fountain committee Chairman Roger Jonas said the committee decided Tuesday that it would form a subcommittee to oversee the light display in a location somewhere in Grand Haven. Potential sites have been narrowed down to Harbor Island and Dewey Hill, he said.

“It’s designed to be, through donations, to raise funds for a charity and for the Musical Fountain, and that’s why we felt it belonged under our committee,” Jonas explained.

The display was created by Brad Boyink and operated at his home on Heather Court in Spring Lake Township for the first time last year. He estimates around 60,000 people visited the display between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, and donations in that five-week period resulted in $20,038 that Boyink gave to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan. He said there may be more donations that were made online through the foundation’s Web site, www.wishmich.org.

While the donations made the show a success, the high traffic it brought to Boyink’s neighborhood created a safety problem, and he decided it needed a more public location in 2007. In fact, he closed it a few days early because of the traffic.

“It was getting too dangerous,” he told the Tribune for a Dec. 30 story. “People were crossing the double yellow line on West Spring Lake Road, and we actually had someone drive down the bike path — and there were people on it.”

Boyink has been the technical adviser for Grand Haven’s Musical Fountain since May 2006, and he talked to Jonas about the committee absorbing the Christmas light display.

“It became very apparent that if I wanted to do it again, I would have to move it to another location,” Boyink said Wednesday. “I looked at other area parks, and Grand Haven had the only one I thought would work. … It really needed to be under a city’s control because of the liability issue, having a better location to expand, and it made the most logical choice being under the Musical Fountain Committee because they already deal with (a similar) production.”

Boyink said he is pushing to put the display on Harbor Island. He said adding the light display to Dewey Hill in December would interfere with the giant Nativity Scene, a tradition there since 1964. In addition, the scale of the light show on the hill would have to be greatly enlarged to be viewed from across the river, which Boyink said would be cost prohibitive.

Jonas said having the show on Dewey Hill would give the city a new “major tourist attraction” to promote, and the island location is not part of the Musical Fountain Committee’s dominion.

The next step, Boyink said, is to get approval from City Council. Once that happens, he plans to find corporate sponsors so there is no city money paying for the display’s operation, something both Jonas and Boyink said was essential.

Boyink also plans to keep the display affiliated with the Michigan Make-A-Wish Foundation as a contribution source for the children’s charity.

Building the new display will be expensive, but using commercial-grade lighting can be cost-effective in the long run, Boyink said.

“The first year could cost $50,000 to $70,000 to do it right,” he said.

But Boyink said the higher-grade LED lights he used last year at his home are cheaper to operate than common Christmas lights. He said his electric bill for December, while operating the big light display at this home, was just over $100 — or 20-percent less than December 2005 when he ran a display of giant inflatables.

A video of Boyink’s display from last month is available to download from the Musical Fountain’s Web site: www.ghmfsoftware.com/lights. Boyink said he plans to add new footage of the display to the site this weekend.

Grandma loses bid to keep festive lights

GRANDMOTHER Elizabeth Sayers fought back tears when officials pulled down her Christmas lights yesterday.

They had adorned her home in Unsworth Street, Radcliffe, for the past four years.

They were switched on over each festive period but remained unlit on the building for the rest of the year.
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Mrs Sayers said she left them up because was unable to take them down herself and could not afford to pay anyone to do it for her.

But her seven-month battle with Bury Council and Six Town Housing came to an end yesterday when council staff arrived at her home to remove the lights.

The council said the lights had to be taken down because they were a health and safety hazard.

As they were being pulled down, stunned motorists and pedestrians looked on, with one driver shouting at the workmen to leave the lights in place.

But while Mrs Sayers’ lights had to come down, just a short distance away, the council’s own lights were still up in Radcliffe town centre Mrs Sayers’ battle began in June last year, when she received a letter from Six Town Housing, which manages the property for the council, saying the lights were a health and safety hazard and had to be removed.

Despite a petition with more than 450 signatures and last-minute legal advice, Mrs Sayers was unable to stop council officials when they arrived at her home shortly after 9am yesterday.

She said: “I feel absolutely terrible but there’s nothing more I can do.

“The children will be devastated when they walk home from school and see that the lights have gone.

“They knock on my door in September every year asking when I will switch them on.

“My grandchildren will be even more upset than I am.”

Council officials told Mrs Sayers that they were taking down the lights because of damage caused to the roof of the property, though she disputes this.

They also said she would be allowed to put decorations up again during the Christmas period.

Mrs Sayers said: “The only way I will be able to put them up next year is if someone does it for free. I can’t afford to pay – that’s why I leave them up.

“My sons are busy with their own lives and don’t have time to put them up and take them down for me.

“Christmas will be ruined for everyone if I don’t have my lights up.

“People know my house and they use it as a landmark if they are giving directions. Everyone will really miss them being up.”

A spokesman for Six Town Housing said: “The lights were removed from Mrs Sayers house today following notification from Six Town Housing. There is no reason why Mrs Sayers cannot enjoy her lights again this coming Christmas, as long as all health and safety regulations are met and provided she takes them down by the 12th night.”

A council spokesman said the lights in Radcliffe town centre would be taken down by the end of January.

Schools weigh inclusiveness, calendar without ‘Christmas’

Shelby County Schools’ newest board member, Fred Johnson, wants to change “Christmas Break” to “Winter Break” on the school calendar.

“I want to make it inclusive of every religious group,” he said.

Johnson’s unexpected declaration, during a recent discussion of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school calendars, did not sit well with all board members.

“This is America. Since Day One, we’ve recognized Christmas as Christmas and Christmas Break as Christmas Break,” said board member Joe Clayton, who said he would never support a change of the wording.

The two-week break between December and January has captured the board’s attention before. Three years ago it was called Winter Break, until Clayton led the move to adopt the Christmas title.

Clayton was also a major force in putting an elective course on Bible study in high schools several years ago. The course is still available in some schools.

“I just believe we’ve got to hold on to some of the traditional things of our country. It’s kind of like apple pie,” he said.

According to board chairman David Pickler, the board approved the Christmas Break measure because it represented the values held by the majority of the Shelby County population.

“Our board has long stood for traditional values. It does in no way exclude other religions,” he said.

One board member supporting the idea of a secular name change is Teresa Price.

During school calendar committee sessions, made up of a cross section of the community, several parents and teachers supported doing away with the Christmas Break title, she said.

A retired county administrator, Johnson joined the board last year to serve the remaining two years of the term for Wyatt Bunker, who was elected to the County Commission.

Johnson, who is a Christian and celebrates Christmas, says a public institution funded by taxpayers’ dollars has the responsibility to be inclusive to all the religions of its students and parents.

“I’m not trying to make waves, but I made a commitment I would try my very best to keep every child in this community in mind,” he said.

Public disagreement among school board members is rare and whether intended or not, Johnson’s proposal has rocked the boat.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the calendar wording at its 1 p.m. meeting Thursday at the board of education, 160 South Hollywood.

Christmas presents thief jailed

A MAN has been jailed after stolen goods, including Christmas presents, were found in his home.

Martin Errol Price, 36, was sentenced in the ACT Magistrates Court today after pleading guilty to 20 offences committed over a 12-month period.

Price has been behind bars since December last year when police found $200 worth of counterfeit banknotes and a stash of stolen goods at his home.

The stolen items included a lap top computer, printer, credit cards, identity cards and several packages addressed to other people.

It is believed the mail contained Christmas presents and had been taken from mailboxes in suburban Narrabundah, where Price lives.

The police statement of facts states only one of the packages had the contents still inside – a car washing kit and inflatable swim ring.

Prosecutor Kelven Hawke told the court he could not believe Price’s claim that he found most of the goods in a cardboard box at a charity bin, as one of the packages had been postmarked with the date January 19, several days after Price claimed he found the box.

The other charges against Price were issued in January and March 2006 and included reckless driving, failing to provide a breath sample, common assault and possessing cannabis.

Magistrate Shane Madden said all the charges appeared to be drug-related but, as Price already was refraining from illicit drugs, he hoped he could be reformed.

“I do believe there is some hope and prospect of rehabilitation in this matter,” he said.

Mr Madden sentenced Price to 18 months jail, to be followed by four months of periodic detention and a two-year good behaviour bond.

He also was fined $650.

Price has already served 133 days of his sentence and will be eligible for parole in February next year.

Nation at risk from tyranny of tolerance

AUSTRALIA’S long-term difficulty in dealing with the now politically defunct noun “multiculturalism” is not unique to this country. It is not even unique to this time.

In London earlier this week a newspaper columnist dug out some old quotes from Winston Churchill in 1938, then merely another politician but a man whose time was about to come.

They were dark days as Churchill watched the tyranny of Nazi Germany spread across Europe and, as the Nazis pushed their violent, intolerant ideology on the world, the British Government simply looked on. Stunned mullets.

They were seemingly unwilling – or unable – to deal with the problem. “I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf,” Churchill observed. He was never short of a quotable line, was ol’ Winston.

But he also warned that “if a moral catastrophe should overtake” Britain, future historians would sit back and be baffled as to how a great nation allowed itself to be destroyed so easily.

Well, folks, who’s to say it isn’t happening again?

How many of you noticed that those Christmas cards you have no doubt recycled by now actually said Happy Holidays, and not the religiously correct Merry Christmas? Were the Christmas lights down in your neighbourhood this year?

It wasn’t so long ago that Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore thought it was a good idea to cancel Christmas decorations in the city so – and how many times are we hearing this? – as not to offend Muslims.

Just this week concert promoter Ken West tried to ban the Australian flag because he believed it would invoke racial violence. Aside from showing common sense was officially dead and buried, West did a pretty good job of indicating the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is in the early stages of rigor mortis as well.

Australia is not unique in its troubles, though. In England last week a woman graduating with her Metropolitan Police class refused to shake the Police Commissioner’s hand because it was against her Muslim faith to shake hands with any man not her husband or a close relative. What did the commissioner do? Privately, they say, he was outraged at the lack of what we Westerners call manners. But he agreed, so as “not to cause a scene”.

For any right-minded person, though, shouldn’t the immediate thought have been: If she cannot touch men, then how is she supposed to arrest them? The commissioner should have stripped her of her badge there and then.

These are all examples of this politically correct pandering to other religions gone completely wrong. They are occurring at the disintegration of our own culture. Sure, this woman was entitled to her religious beliefs but when it comes to policing, the greater welfare of the community should have been put before her interests.

Sadly it wasn’t, which is symptomatic of the problem in England, in Australia, and throughout the Western world. In a bid to stay modern, be fair and accept every man as equal, countries opened their borders to differing religions, races and persuasions when, according to the rhetoric, we should all have then joined in a group hug.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Hardline fundamental Muslims have moved in, happy to accept the freedoms and benefits of our culture – whenever it suited – while around the world their kill tally continues to rise.

They sell their hate-mongering DVDs in western Sydney and then we excuse them because we are a “tolerant” society.

Well, it says here that tolerance these days is just cowardice dressed in a palatable mask. The true meaning has been lost in this dog’s breakfast of political correctness. By pandering to religious sensibilities in such a manner Australia is just weakening its own culture and going down the path of ruin.

Australia is a wonderful country and deserves protecting. It should not be allowed to be overrun by fundamentalists preying on our weakness to show “tolerance”.

The small light of hope this week was Prime Minister John Howard’s decision to reflect the feelings of the majority of this country by changing the multiculturalism portfolio to a citizenship portfolio.

While it is hard to ignore the change could simply be an election stunt from Honest John cashing in on the wider feelings of the electorate, the hope is it is more a case of astute politics. With no more astute politician in Canberra, he gets the early benefit of the doubt.

Australia needs to be protected not just from the fundamentalists but from ourselves – from the dimwits all too willing to give this country away in the name of tolerance.

For a long while Churchill was a lone voice in his opposition to Hitler, even becoming virtually banned from the BBC for being too anti-German. He was proven right only when it was almost too late.

Opinion piece does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Joy of Christmas

School board member pitches name change for “Christmas break”

Christmas Vacation or Winter Break?

A Shelby County School leader wants to change it to the more “politically correct” version. But that’s not sitting well with some students, parents and school board members.

An official decision on what to call the holiday could be made during a school board vote tomorrow.

In the meantime, at some schools in Shelby County, the vacation known at county schools as “Christmas break” is at the center of a growing debate.

“I think it should just stay christmas break because its been christmas break as long as I can remember,” said student Brittany Markel.

“I know people who don’t really like the Christmas thing because they aren’t – they are of another religion,” said sister Caitlin Markel.

Board Member Fred Johnson suggested Shelby County adopt the title “Winter Break” at a recent school board meeting.

Johnson was unavailable for comment and some students we talked to say his proposal faces an uphill battle.

“I think it should stay Christmas Break,” said student Bobby Scott.

“I don’t think most of the students are going to care as long as they get out for the same amount of time,” countered another.

School board officials say in the last ten years the vacation has been called “winter break” but that they went back to calling it “Christmas Break” several years ago because it was traditional and that is what the Federal Government calls the holiday.

Memphis City Schools do it differently. At MCS, the vacation is called “winter break.” Desoto County and Marion, Arkansas schools call it the “Christmas holiday.” Tipton and Fayette Counties call that December school holiday “Christmas break.”

Why no halos on Grandma’s Christmas angel sweater?

January’s best feature is the disappearance of the dreadful Christmas sweater. Rather than just out of sight for the next year, this gaudy rendition of holiday cheer should be banned solely for its entrapment of women into thinking they look trendy wearing one.

If necessary, all cities should pass a “Garish Ordinance” to protect mature women from the annual need to don foolish apparel designed by malicious elves, otherwise known as Wal-Mart Haute Couture.

Repeat after me, there is no middle-aged bosom that looks attractive wearing beaded Christmas trees, sequined reindeer and a needlepoint Santa Claus, unless, of course, you are Mrs. Claus and want a really nice present.

If Petco hasn’t already, the store could develop a line of doggy Christmas sweaters and any matron with the uncontrollable urge to festoon herself with a knitted version of the Frosty the Snowman could thwart this pleasure onto her fluffy little Bishon, who despite such garb, would remain cute. Warning: Do not be tempted with matching sweaters.

Such a vision would be enough to revive Coco Chanel from her final resting place or put the Chic Cops on a flashing red-light-run directly to your front door. This fashion blasphemy might even inspire an Oprah show on what NOT to WEAR during the holidays.

On second thought, please don’t, the mental image of Oprah and her three golden retrievers — Luke, Layla and Lucie — sporting identical Christmas sweaters makes me want to cancel my subscription to her magazine, who undoubtedly, would put this colorful quartet onto next December’s cover.

While having lunch with a girlfriend, I recently learned that ridiculing the Christmas sweater is as unfashionable as the gold, appliquéd angels on both its sleeves. Since she is a newspaper editor, I also proposed writing a funny article about it.

Her immediate and indignant retort, “You write Christmas letters!” drew my quick response, “At least, they are tasteful!”

After those two mouthfuls, both of us tried backpedaling:

I said: “Of course, the right Christmas earrings with an elegant Christmas sweater would definitely give only you a classic look. Your statuesque frame carries beads and sequins beautifully.”

She said: “Everyone enjoys your Christmas letters because they are so funny and informative. We all love reading about your travels, children and grandchildren. In fact, three single-spaced pages are never enough.”

We’re still friends and next December she’ll be wearing her stylish, black Christmas sweater with festive poinsettias on each shoulder and strands of multicolored lights trailing from front to the back interspersed with carefully placed cherubs. Complementing this look will be large, dangling earrings of snowflakes and gaily, wrapped presents.

My newsletter will be in the mail stamped with extra postage so all my friends and family will again savor my exciting year as told in 3,000 words or less. Enclosed with my thrilling epistle and card are numerous pictures and newspaper clippings for their added enjoyment.

For every rack of forlorn Christmas sweaters marked down 70 percent, there is a trash can brimming with unread Christmas letters. In retrospect, we don’t need that ordinance. Let the old girls adorn themselves; most of us have enough bosom area to portray the entire scene of Bethlehem; in addition, with a smile and a sing-along of “Silent Night.”

I hope Oprah doesn’t read this because I’d love to sit on her couch with my fluffy pooch, Hercules, and we could share doggie tales. Maybe Tom Selleck, George Clooney and Matthew McConaughey could join us. Makes for one heck of a Christmas letter.

Judge orders Christmas tree out of courtroom lobby

A judge from the Ontario Court of Justice on Jarvis Street has ordered a Christmas tree out of the courthouse lobby creating some politically-correct controversy this holiday season.

Walk around downtown Toronto and you’ll see several Christmas trees serving as a reminder that the holiday season is here. But while trees like the huge one at Nathan Phillips Square are generally viewed as a common symbol this time of year, many view it as offensive and potentially alienating.

It’s a level of politically-correctness that borders on ridiculous according to one resident. [Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christians]

“I think everyone should just get over it and we should love each other. I mean Christmas tree or not, what’s the difference? Can’t we just be nice to each other and just tolerate each other a little better?”

According to reports, the order to remove the Christmas tree has angered a lot of the staff at the court house who say that the tree has been placed in the lobby at Christmas for many years.

The judge however, has claimed that it’s a Christian symbol that sends a message to people with different beliefs that they are not part of the institution.

Rabbi plays Grinch: Christmas trees removed at airport

All nine Christmas trees have been removed from Sea-Tac International Airport instead of adding a giant Jewish menorah to the holiday display as a rabbi had requested.

For more than 25 years, the airport has celebrated the holidays with Christmas trees over its entrances. But overnight, the Port of Seattle ordered all of them removed. Maintenance workers boxed up the trees during the graveyard shift early Saturday, when airport bosses believed few people would notice.

“We decided to take the trees down because we didn’t want to be exclusive,” said airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt. “We’re trying to be thoughtful and respectful, and will review policies after the first of the year.”

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, who made his request weeks ago, said he was appalled by the decision. He had hired a lawyer and threatened to sue if the Port of Seattle didn’t add the menorah next to the trees, which had been festooned with red ribbons and bows.

“Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season,” said Bogomilsky, who works in Seattle at the regional headquarters for Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish education foundation.

After consulting with lawyers, port staff believed that adding the menorah would have required adding symbols for other religions and cultures in the Northwest. The holidays are the busiest season at the airport, Betancourt said, and staff didn’t have time to play cultural anthropologists.

Hanukkah begins this Friday at sundown.

“They’ve darkened the hall instead of turning the lights up,” said Bogomilsky’s lawyer, Harvey Grad. “There is a concern here that the Jewish community will be portrayed as the Grinch.”

Angry airport employees have started a campaign urging people to call the Port of Seattle to complain.

The Christmas trees are now in storage or hidden in unused areas of the airport where they won’t be seen.

Airlines companies that lease space in the airport are not being required to remove decorations from their check-in counters.

Rachel Garson with the Port of Seattle said the issue would be revisited after the holidays are over.

“Since this is the busiest time of year we decided to take the decorations down now and consider a new policy after the new year,” Garson said.

Church ban for Father Christmas

A vicar in Dorset has defended his decision to ban Father Christmas from a church carol service.

Reverend Tim Storey, who was leading the service at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Blandford, asked Henry Cuff to remove a costume he was wearing.

Mr Cuff, a member of the town’s Lions Club, refused to take the Santa outfit off and left the building.

Mr Storey said his job was to place the birth of Jesus Christ at the heart of Christmas celebrations.

In a website statement, he said: “I do not believe that Father Christmas should be a part of church services any more than Santa’s grotto should have a manger and a baby Jesus present.

“Keeping the two distinct is important for both.”

Other church ministers in the area have defended Mr Storey’s comments.

Christmas lights spell out Scrooge’s words

Jason Lee insists he’s not declaring war on Christmas, despite what the multicolored lights on his front lawn spell out.

His display of holiday decorations just happens to include the phrase “Bah-hum-bug.”

“I like the holidays, and I’ve always decorated for Christmas,” Lee told The Grand Rapids Press in Sunday editions. “Can’t have too many lights.”

Lee, 28, a sheet metal worker, said he was just having fun with the display when he included the sour sentiment made famous by Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

He started the display in mid-November.

It began with the word “bug,” followed by “bah” a few days later and finally, “hum,” said next-door neighbor John Stryker, who called the Christmas catchphrase odd but not offensive.

“They’re a real nice family,” said Sandy Yocum, another neighbor. “I don’t think they’re Scrooges at all.”

Byron Township Clerk Joel Hondorp, who has seen the display, said he’s not sure he “gets it,” but there are worse things people could spell out with lights.

Mother Has 12-Year-Old Son Arrested for Opening Christmas Gift Early

A mother convinced Rock Hill police to arrest her 12-year-old son after he unwrapped a Christmas present early.

The boy’s great-grandmother had specifically told him not to open his Nintendo Game Boy Advance, which she had wrapped and placed beneath the Christmas tree, according to a police report.

But on Sunday morning, she found the box of the popular handheld game console unwrapped and opened. When the boy’s 27-year-old mother heard about the opened gift, she called police.

“He took it without permission. He wanted it. He just took it,” said the 63-year-old great-grandmother.

Both the great-grandmother and the mother asked the boy on Sunday where the present was. The boy replied he didn’t know.

When the mother threatened to call the police, the boy went into his room and got the Game Boy, the report stated. She called the police anyway.

Two Rock Hill police officers responded to the home and charged the boy with petty larceny. He was charged as a juvenile and released the same day, said police spokesman Lt. Jerry Waldrop, who added the boy was never held at the jail.

“We wouldn’t hold a 12-year-old,” he said.

The Herald is not identifying the boy or his mother and great-grandmother because of his age.

On Monday night, the mother said she had her son arrested because she didn’t know what else to do.

She had the child when she was 15, the woman said, and has been a single mother struggling to earn a business degree.

She said the boy likes attention and has a history of bad behavior. He has shoplifted from stores and stolen money from her, she said. The boy has also been inching toward expulsion from school, she added, and even punched a police officer last month. He was arrested for disorderly conduct in that incident.

She hoped the arrest would be a wake-up call for him. She dreads getting a phone call someday reporting he’s been killed.

The boy “showed no remorse” when the police came, the mother said.

“I’m trying to get him some kind of help,” she said. “He’s the type of kid who doesn’t believe anything until it happens.”

Waldrop said the women were seeking help with a problem child. “He is a disruptive, disorderly kid.”

Waldrop said he trusted the two responding officers to exercise discretion when deciding whether to arrest the youngster.

“In a case like this, if the parents and grandparents are adamant about it and they feel the child has a serious problem, I can’t second-guess what the officers did,” Waldrop said.

The mother told police officers that she would have the boy placed with the state Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia at his court appearance.

Waldrop said he was not aware if Rock Hill police have ever arrested a child for unwrapping Christmas presents early.

“Yeah, it’s strange,” he said of the case.

British companies ban Christmas displays

British law firm Peninsula has said that nearly 75 percent of companies in the country are choosing not to display Christmas decorations.

The law firm said companies are avoiding yuletide displays in the workplace out of fear that an offended party could sue for discrimination, Sky News reported Tuesday.

“Christmas trees and decorations may well be a thing of the past in many workplaces this Christmas as political correctness culture has spread to the workplace,” Peter Done, managing director of Peninsula, told Sky News.

“Although employers who are enforcing the ban are skeptical and dismayed by this trend, they feel they have little choice in the matter due to the threat of litigation, as they have to protect themselves, their reputation and their livelihood.”

Christmas parties out, workers say

The era of the office Christmas party is over, most workers told Harris Interactive in a poll sponsored by Fort Lauderdale-based Spherion.

Most people – 57 percent – do not care if their employer has a holiday party and about half – 46 percent – are not going to attend a company party anyhow.

Spherion, based in Fort Lauderdale, contracted with Harris Interactive last month to find out what 1,639 employed adults think about office parties.

The workplace is changing, and the idea of trying to bring everyone together to celebrate the holidays no longer appeals to most Americans, the Rochester, N.Y.-based Web survey company reported.

The holiday party poll was accurate to 2 to 3 percentage points.

Women were more likely than men to feel obligated to attend a party – 30 percent versus 24 percent – while 30 percent of workers aged 25-29 say it is important to them that their employer has an annual holiday party.

Only one in 10 workers aged 65 and older think a party is important.

Cut down Christmas tree mystery

The mystery over who chopped down a Monmouthshire town’s Christmas tree has deepened after council workers said it was not them.

A police appeal was made after the 25ft tree in Usk was found sawn in half.

Then the blame shifted to Monmouthshire Council after it was thought their workers had cut it up after considering it a public danger in high winds.

But the council said it was not responsible and the damage is believed to have been caused by vandals.

At first, members of Usk Town Council thought the tree had blown over but on closer inspection it was revealed it had been sawn up.

Police were then contacted and issued an appeal for information.

It was then thought that Monmouthshire Council had been forced to chop it up to remove it for safety reasons after it blew over in the wind.

But the mystery deepened further on Monday when it was revealed that a risk assesment on the tree over the weekend had declared it did not need to be cut down.

‘Mindless vanadlism’

Councillor Tony Kear from Usk Town Council explained: “We were told by the police that the county council had been informed it was a potential danger and so we thought they had taken it down.

“But the county council had now confirmed to us that they didn’t.

“They said they had been informed at about three in the morning it was a hazard and they were going to send someone to sort it out.

“But we’ve spoken to the council and they said they decided it wasn’t.

“So it looks as if it was vandals after all,” he said.

Mr Kear said a replacement tree was being put up on Monday in time for the annual Father Christmas and reindeers event on Sunday.

“It’s awful, just simply and act of mindless vandalism,” he said.

“It’s obvious that vandals are trying to spoil Christmas but we are determined not to let them.

“I just can’t understand it. The person who did this went out in high winds and rian, climbed inside the fence to get to the tree and then into the branches to saw it.

“There were electrics and all sorts, it’s just totally bizarre why anyone would want to do this.

“It must be a real Ebeneezer Scrooge who is responsible, but we are not going to let them spoil Christmas,” he added.

Monmouthshire Council has confirmed it was not responsible for cutting down the tree.

A spokesman for Gwent Police said: “Someone has cut the tree and we are treating it as criminal damage.”

He said it was probably cut down during the early hours of Sunday morning and appealed for information.

The tree has since been replaced with another.

Christmas on hold because of council red tape

Ambitious plans by traders to lure in Christmas shoppers by running a festive train through the streets of the city have been thwarted – because council red tape means it cannot be discussed until January.

The Norwich Lanes committee had wanted to attract more families by operating a diesel-run white train in the run-up to Christmas to shuttle shoppers around.

Wayne Persinger, who runs Captain America’s Hamburger Heaven in Exchange Street, and is the Lanes secretary, said traders had drawn up the route the 60 foot three-carriage train, which would hold 60 shoppers, would follow.

“We wanted to bring it down Gentleman’s Walk and London Street but the council said there was legislation preventing that. There were too many restrictions to overcome in a short period of time,” he said.

The traders’ intention was to bring in the privately-owned train that chugs across Yarmouth seafront and if the idea had been a big hit, they had hoped to use it again in the summer.

“We had negotiated a package with the train operator who would have provided a driver and I think it would have been a novel feature for Norwich. We are disappointed but I am optimistic it will come off next year,” he said.

The train idea will not get looked at by council chiefs until the January meeting of the Norwich Highways Area Committee.

The committee had also planned to brighten up the area by planting a large Christmas tree in St Gregory’s Alley on the spot of an old walnut tree which was removed by council bosses when it went rotten.

Mr Persinger said he had been told they would need to get a risk assessment done on the new tree in case it fell down and also get a structural engineers’ report done. He said the council had agreed to foot the £300 bill for that, but then it emerged the traders would have to buy a huge concrete slab for it to sit in, which they decided would cost too much.

“We are working on the possibility now of illuminating another tree now instead,” he said.

Chris Betts, partner of All’s Fair in St Gregory’s Alley, said: “I am disappointed about the tree. It would have brightened the area up a bit, it’s a bit empty down there otherwise as there are not really any Christmas decorations.”

Richard Stubbings, who runs Kulture Shock, in St Benedict’s, said: “We are obviously disappointed but understand these things take time.”

A city council spokeswoman said officers were preparing a feasibility report on a road train and this would be presented to Norwich Area Highways Committee next year, at the earliest in January.

Stealing Christmas? Bah, humbug!

IT’S THAT TIME of the year again. The holiday shopping season is in full swing. The stores and city streets are decked out in all their holiday splendor – tinseled trees, angels, reindeer, Santa.

But despite these abundant public Christmas displays, right-wing pundits have begun their annual campaign to convince the faithful that “the liberals,” led by the American Civil Liberties Union, are waging a “war on Christmas.” [When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country]

Maybe I’m missing something, but if there really is a war on Christmas, a quick trip to the local mall should convince any skeptic that Christmas has surely won that battle. And I have yet to see throngs of ACLU members picketing the decorated stores. It looks to me as though the Christmas spirit is alive and thriving, as gaudily obvious as ever.

And those who think that the evil godless liberals are out to steal Christmas from them might find it interesting to look at the history of our Christmas traditions. Like many Christian holidays, numerous Christmas customs and symbols have their roots in pagan traditions. Most historians don’t believe that Jesus was born on Dec. 25, and there were no pine trees in the desert around Bethlehem.

These elements were borrowed from the pagan winter holidays of Saturnalia and Yule. So, ironically enough, the early Christians were the ones who originally stole the holiday. But that’s fine, in my opinion. There should be enough holiday spirit for everyone to share.

I admit there are some people who do make a fuss over public displays of religion. They are generally the humorless, militant atheist types who could use a lesson in tolerance (and a big, strong cup of eggnog). Here in the United States, we have freedom of religion. While that also includes the right for nonbelievers to practice no religion, they are doing themselves a disservice by trying to interfere with other people’s right to observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan or any other holiday of their choice, religious or otherwise.

But the right-wing zealots need to realize that these types are a very small minority. The ACLU will go to bat when there are complaints about blatant sectarian displays on tax-funded property. But these are very specific incidents. They pose no threat to Santa at the mall.

That said, I have to question the motives of those pundits who, year after year, whine about this imaginary war on Christmas. Are they really so insecure in their piety that they need to blatantly splash their icons in every public square?

And didn’t Jesus himself preach that we should practice our religion in private and secretly, and not in public? According to Matthew 6:5-6, “when thou pray, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy father which is in secret, and thy father which seeth in secret shall reward thee.” I could find nothing in the Gospels advocating giant displays of reindeer and mistletoe.

But I will enjoy those displays, even though I’m not a Christian. After all, we live in a free country, and it is the multi-cultural nature of our melting-pot society that makes this nation so special.

Happy holidays to all.

Float driver in Christmas parade charged with DUI

A man driving a float in the Anderson Christmas parade has been charged with drunk driving after he passed another float then sped down Main Street, police say.

When officers caught up to 42-year-old David Allen Rodgers, he had an open container of alcohol in the truck he used to haul the children and adults on the float for the Steppin’ Out Dance Studio, Anderson Police spokeswoman Linda Dudley said.

Witnesses said Rodgers was driving in line in Sunday’s parade when he pulled out to pass a tractor in the float.

Rodgers sped down Main Street and ran a red light, while a witness on the float called 911 on a cell phone, police said.

Officers started chasing Rodgers, who didn’t stop for three miles. Once he pulled over, he tried to attack an officer, Dudley said.

Rodgers, whose child was on the float, faces more than three dozen charges, including DUI, 18 counts of kidnapping and assaulting an officer, authorities said.

A woman who answered the phone at Rodgers’ home would not talk to a reporter and a message left at the dance studio was not returned Monday.

Rodgers will have a bond hearing on the kidnapping charge Tuesday. He has a prior traffic offense, but Anderson Police officials could not elaborate on the charge.

Cingular’s Christmas commercial unnecessarily debases holiday classic

Christmas is the season for taking everything too far.

Look at Clark W. Griswold’s light display, Charlie Brown’s self-doubt, and Jimmy Stewart’s acting—the term “over the top” doesn’t do these crazy characters any justice.

This whole Christmas fever exists outside of cinema, as the holiday spirit takes hold of people and throws them into frenzy akin to Linda Blair in “The Exorcist,” without all of the demon possession and head spinning (except on Black Friday, eesh). And what’s wrong with such passion in the name of charity, family and goodwill? Some might call inviting an entire city of kids to UD to celebrate Xmas “over the top,” but we call it Christmas on Campus. Thus, with all of the lights, fun, and craziness, it’s pretty safe to say that Americans love to exaggerate for their favorite holiday.

Unfortunately, there’s a wonderful touch of grey to this observation of an obvious phenomenon. While most exaggeration of the Yuletide spirit comes with the territory and adds to a general sense of benevolence during the time between Thanksgiving and New Years, our friends in advertising have somehow managed to locate a line and cross it. Now, I’ll admit that the poor people in marketing have suffered enough criticism about “commercializing Christmas” with their jingles, sales, and last-minute shopping extravaganzas, so I can’t blame a group of people for trying to pay the mortgage by providing an honest supply for an otherworldly demand.

Yet, the disgustingly enterprising people at Cingular have encroached upon a new Christmas tradition by adapting the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story” as a commercial for a prepaid cell phone plan, replacing the famous catchphrase “You’ll shoot your eye out” with “You’ll run the bill up.”

Ralphie, get your Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

Now, this entire film has endured a history of over-exaggeration. After relatively little success after its release in 1983, “A Christmas Story” managed to skyrocket to the mainstream of American Yuletide consciousness by first cementing itself as a holiday classic and later gaining a 24-hour holiday marathon on TBS. Recently, Brian Jones, a Naval aviator, purchased the original home from the film, located in Cleveland, and transformed it into a kind of museum. The man even sells replicas of the “Major Award” leg lamp that Ralphie’s father exhibits in his window.

These occurrences obviously fit under the title “over the top,” but with a certain justification. This film represents every standard and ideal revered in America, as a young boy with a dream (his BB gun) and a clever sense of humor and fate manages to obtain his goal, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds: hearing “You’ll shoot your eye out” from his mother, teacher, and the Claus himself, suffering the malevolence of the bully Farkas, and facing the embarrassment of wearing a pink bunny suit.

And the Dr. Frankensteins at Cingular have scoffed at Ralphie’s victory by taking the genius of this film and turning it into an ugly, terrible monster of an advertisement intended to play on the imaginations and love of the American public. This commercial doesn’t fit into the category of “over the top” Christmas spirit. Instead, Cingular has crossed a line of decency by spoofing a spoof, and creating a new standard for holiday season advertising. What’s next—Verizon airing a commercial mirroring “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?” Thanks for ruining a tradition, Cingular. In the words of Joey Tribbiani, “You have crossed the line. You are so far past the line you can’t even see it! The line is a dot to you.”

Now go have Ralphie’s mom clean out your mouth with that red soap, you Grinches.

Christmas conflict off to slow start

The annual Christmas wars, pitting right-wing commentators against the supposed enemies of Christ, seem to be getting off to a slow start this year.

The only real controversy I’ve read about takes place in Chicago, where the city has convinced distributors of a holiday movie, “The Nativity Story,” not to advertise during the annual Christkindlmarket, a German-style festival in Daley Plaza.

The movie had its official premiere Nov. 27 in the Vatican and it is now being screened in several Madison theaters. There has been no controversy surrounding the film, which basically tells the biblical story of the birth of Jesus.

Even the Chicago uproar is tempered somewhat by the fact that there is an actual Nativity scene displayed in the Plaza, along with the requisite menorah and Islamic crescent displays.

WorldNetDaily, an online news and commentary service, says it isn’t waiting for the anti-Christmas forces to act. It is selling, for $2.99 each, magnets in the shape of Christmas trees proclaiming “The Reason for the Season.”

This, the Web site promises, is a way to strike a pre-emptory blow.

“Were you tired of the annual ritual of Christmas-tree burnings and nativity-scene demolitions?” WorldNetDaily asks. “Are you sick of being on the defensive each year as the American Civil Liberties Union wars against God in the public square? … This year, you won’t have to wait for the first salvo to be fired by the ACLU. This year, it’s your turn to go on the offensive for a politically incorrect, but spiritually correct, Thanksgiving and Christmas season.”

Just for the record, there is no “annual ritual” of Christmas-tree burnings and Nativity-scene demolitions. Indeed, I don’t recall hearing of even one such instance.

hasn’t protested the religious scenes in the state Capitol (which now includes a placard from the Freedom From Religion Foundation) and it isn’t involved in the Chicago controversy.

But you can’t raise money on the basis of no controversy, so those who want to convince the faithful that Christianity has real enemies keep trying to fan the embers.

And there are some embers. A year ago, even President Bush was attacked as being soft on Christmas, mainly because his official holiday card quoted an Old Testament scripture.

Fox News television star Bill O’Reilly insisted, not only on his show but on the David Letterman show, that Ridgeway Elementary School in the Dodgeville School District was staging a pageant that replaced the song “Silent Night” with some non-Christian words.

O’Reilly referred to the “Ridgeway Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wisconsin,” when it is in fact in Ridgeway, and got all the other facts wrong, too, but that didn’t quell a national controversy based on nothing but misunderstanding and distortion.

A number of conservative groups threatened to boycott chains such as Wal-Mart that used the expression “Happy Holidays,” rather than “Merry Christmas.” This year, Wal-Mart announced it will once again promote Christmas. Spokeswoman Linda Blackley said “We’re not afraid to use the term ‘Merry Christmas.’ We’ll use it early and we’ll use it often.”

So Christmas, apparently, is now safe for commerce, which may, in fact, be the “reason for the season” in our commercial world.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? Retailers, residents sound off

The 7,000 Wal-Mart managers who gathered at a Christmas planning session in September heard what they wanted to hear from the world’s largest retailer.

Wal-Mart would emphasize the word “Christmas” this holiday season.

“The reaction was thunderous applause,” said spokesman Kory Lundberg.

Last year, several retailers took heat for what some consumers felt was an abandonment of “Christmas.”

But not all store chains buy into Wal-Mart’s response.

“We will use the words ‘Happy Holidays’ in our advertising,” said Kelly Groehler, national spokeswoman for the Best Buy electronics chain.

Groehler said 100 million customers will enter Best Buy stores between Thanksgiving and Jan. 31, and the retailer wants each one to have a good experience.

That means the stores and their employees must recognize that several holidays take place this time of year.

So, is the word “Christmas” taboo at Best Buy?

Absolutely not, said Groehler.

“If you tell one of our blue-shirted associates that you’re shopping for Christmas, he or she will say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ If you’re shopping for Hanukkah, they will say, ‘Happy Hanukkah.’ It’s a matter of listening and knowing your individual needs,” said Groehler.

Best Buy is including Christmas imagery in its TV advertising, including Santa Claus, stockings hung by the chimney and a tree in the corner of the house.

Paul Royster, who manages the local Best Buy store, said retailers walk a fine line. He said some shoppers make it clear they prefer “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.”

Rabbi Gordon Fuller at Congregation Agudath Jacob in Waco is not among them. He wants to hear “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” when he goes shopping.

“It’s not just an issue of Christians and Jews; there are Muslims and Hindus and lots of other faiths,” he said. “As a believer in a pluralistic society, it’s nice not to be offensive.”

Fuller said he’s not annoyed by those who wish him a Merry Christmas.

“But if I have time, I might say, ‘I’m Jewish, and that’s not my holiday.’ ”

Al Siddiq, president of the Islamic Center of Waco, does not like the term “Happy Holidays.” He would prefer that greetings this time of year be specific and heartfelt.

“If I’m speaking with a Jew, I tell him, ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ that’s his holiday,” said Siddiq. “If I’m talking with a Christian, I say, ‘Happy Christmas or Merry Christmas..’ To greet someone within his or her faith brings closeness.”

Muslims soon will be celebrating Eid El-Adhah, or The Feast of Sacrifice.

Like Wal-Mart, Target will use the word Christmas early and often this season, said spokeswoman Brie Heath.

Last year, Target’s advertising campaign after Thanksgiving moved gradually from “holidays” early in December to “Merry Christmas” just as Dec. 25 approached.

This season, said Heath, “Christmas” will dominate advertising in Target stores “because it fits with our theme of a whimsical wintry wonderland.”

Kohl’s released a statement saying it has never instructed its employees not to use the term “Merry Christmas,” and that it will use “Christmas” in its print, TV and radio advertising.

Don Ward, operations manager at Sears in Waco, said employees there can say “whatever they feel comfortable with,” be it “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”

Lundberg, at Wal-Mart, said the chain’s advertising theme last year was “Home for the Holidays.” It perturbed some shoppers, who felt the world’s largest retailer was avoiding use of the word Christmas.

That was a “misconception,” said Lundberg.

But Wal-Mart is taking no chances this year.

“People will notice Christmas dominating our message,” he said, adding: “We talked with our associates and customers, and that’s what they want.”